My wife, the girls and I got home very late from the office tonight (Friday). When I got home, I had a dishwasher to unload (hey, at least I have a dishwasher now, so no complaints, believe me) and a sink full of dishes to rinse and load into the freshly empty life-saving mechanism. And I had five pounds of excellent CostCo ground beef (12% fat, $2.99 a pound, best tasting burger you can buy) ready and waiting in the refrigerator for me to work some end-of-the week magic on it. So I turned on KFWB 980 and began listening to the Dodger game while I kneaded the secret ingredients into 2-1/2 pounds of what would soon go sliding into my oven, to emerge one hour later as some fine-ass meatloaf.
And I had designs on another pound and a half too-- George Foreman and I would be joining forces tonight to make delicious burgers for the girls, with freshly sliced lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on the side, and a steaming bowl of red beans and rice courtesy of the good folks at Zatarain's. As I started flattening the patties, Colorado took an early 1-0 lead. Odalis Perez was struggling-- 20+ pitches in the first inning, and he continued having troubles in the next inning or so, while Rockies' starter Jason Jennings looked to be cruising. Jennings threw five pitches to get out of one frame-- I think it was the second-- and the Dodgers didn't get a hit off of him until the fifth.
The meatloaf still had about a half hour to go when Patty got the girls out of the tub, into their jammies and up to the table, where the burgers, rice, and sippy cups filled with milk (a banana served as extra enticement for Nonie) awaited them. I shut the radio off and joined everybody at the table. Despite the fact that it was around 8:30-- usually the late end of bedtime on a normal night-- we were all having too much fun enjoying each other's company to worry about staying up late or missing the game. Emma put some Japanese lullabies on the CD player and we ate, laughed and talked in front of a background of those lilting, haunting melodies. I was made inordinately happy by the fact that both my daughters seemed to really enjoy the hamburgers, and I myself was pretty impressed with how good they tasted-- clean, not greasy, the beef intensely flavorful but not overwhelming, and all the better because they were homemade and so well appreciated. Nonie even decided tonight that she liked pickles, and proceeded to suck the juice out of and/or ruthlessly pound down dill chip after dill chip. This made me happy too. When you're lucky enough to have such beautiful blessings greet you and be with you every day, happiness is, despite all of life's attendant problems and worries, really a pretty accessible commodity, yet one that I work hard never to take for granted (I admit, though, that I am sometimes unsuccessful at this). And there's enough old-school Italian in me to really get a molto grande kick out of it whenever these somewhat picky eaters (Nonie much more so than Emma) both greedily show appreciation for the homemade meals their daddy or their mommy provides for them. So tonight's dinner table shenanigans were, for me, a major blessing, the perfect way to decompress after another typically exhausting working week.
I was just beginning to get the dinner dishes cleaned up (fortunately, tonight we traded our fine Farberware for that of Dixie) when the phone rang. Patty immediately knew who it was, and even though the radio and TV were still off, I suspected that I knew too. As I answered the phone, I braced myself. This most likely was good news, but it could also be bad.
"Hee-Seop Choi!" the voice on the other end screamed with obvious joy.
"What? What happened?" I said, giving my position away immediately.
"You're not watching the game? What the--" he stammered. "Hee-Seop-fucking-Choi just hit a grand slam! And you missed it?!"
I tried to explain. "Well, I was eating dinner with the girls-- I had the game on for a while, but we didn't--"
"I don't wanna talk about it," he insisted. "This conversation's over, you piece of shit. Let me talk to your wife."
I handed the phone off to Patty, walked over to the TV and turned it on just as the inning ended, just in time to see the replay of Choi's granny. It was a home run much like the other two he's hit so far this season-- it just barely cleared the fence in left center. After the game, Choi even said he thought it was going to be a double. From a game standpoint, it must have been hugely exciting to watch the inning develop and get capped off in that fashion. Hopefully, combined with Choi's 4-for-5 outing the other night, it'll signal more consistency and better application of the bat, if Tracy opts to start him at first base more often than he does Norihiro Nakamura or Olmedo Saenz. But from an aesthetic standpoint it wasn't particularly pretty, at least when seen as a minutes-old highlight, even though I couldn't have been happier for Choi and the Dodgers. End of the fifth: Dodgers 4, Rockies 1.
I decided to take a break and let the dishes wait a bit. The kids found a giant coffee table book called The Art of Walt Disney that was good for several minutes' worth of ooh-ing and aah-ing and "Oh, my goodness"-es while I settled in to watch an inning or two. Patty came back into the room and placed the phone back in its cradle.
"Your buddy wants me to take all your Dodger souvenirs and paraphernalia and throw them in the Dumpster," she deadpanned.
"Hmm," I replied. "Okay, everything but my signed David Ross baseball. That thing's gonna make us rich someday."
"He says that if you're a true Dodger fan and you're home on Friday night, there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't be watching the game. I think he said something about demanding satisfaction, like you burning your 2004 division championship T-shirt in the parking lot of the Big A, or something like that. I stopped listening after a while."
I glanced over at the girls amusing themselves on the living room floor. "Look, Nonie!" cried Emma, "it's Cinderella!"
With a squeal of appropriate enthusiasm, Nonie replied excitedly, "Oh, my goodness!"
"Well, before I go turning in my Eric Gagne decoder ring or anything," I said, "perhaps I should take it upon myself to remind Excitable Boy of just who it was that left in the sixth inning on Opening Day." I felt myself getting on a roll. "Who was it that was yanking out his own teeth by watching the rest of the game from the office kitchen as the Dodgers and Milton Bradley pulled off that miraculous win against the Giants? And who was it who stayed till the very end and basked in every glorious moment of it from inside the stadium?"
"I know," Patty said patiently. "He's a twisted, yet somehow lovable jackass. I told him that you were eating dinner with us and having fun, and that sometimes it's okay to live for someone other than yourself, but I don't think he was listening. He kept chattering on about taking a hammer to your Dodgers schedule watch."
"Whatever," I said. That threat to my Dodgers schedule watch was the final straw. Why, I oughta-- I looked back at the TV and, lo and behold, here comes Cesar Izturis to the plate, with two out and, what do you know, the bases loaded. Maybe he can do it too, I said to myself. And then the phone rang again. I picked up and spoke first without even saying hello.
"He's gonna do it," I said definitively.
"Oh, so you're watching now?" he snorted.
"Yeah, I'm taking a break before the girls' bedtime" was my tart rejoinder.
"I see how it is. Typical fair-weather fan," he snarled accusingly. "Turn the game off when it's going bad, miss the good stuff, and now you want 'em to do it again so you can see it. 'Come on, Little Cesar! I missed the other one!'"
I was undaunted. "Watch this. He's gonna do it."
"All right, I just called to make sure you were paying attention this time." Then, as is typical of our very brief mid-game phone conversations, he barked "Later!" and hung up.
I looked up at the TV. Izturis let loose and hit a towering... pop-up back of the plate that was handled by sliding Rockies catcher Todd Greene. End of the sixth: Dodgers 4, Rockies 1.
Odalis Perez would pitch strongly, after recovering from the tough beginning, through the seventh. And in the bottom half of the same inning, J.D. Drew would hit a two-run insurance homer to make it Dodgers 6, Rockies 1.
Colorado would score two more times, sending Tracy to the bullpen for Schmoll, Wunsch, Carlyle, and eventually Brazoban for the save, but by then our TV had already been shut down. Patty was with Emma for a couple of stories before bedtime, and I was pulling Nonie duty for the same. The girls were both ultra-tired, it being past 10:00 and all, but they never lost the giggles and the happiness that had been the hallmark of their entire evening, right up till the final droop of the eyelids, when sleepy turned to sleep for real. And as luck would have it, after storytime I finally made it back to the kitchen, and the unloading and reloading of the dishwasher, just in time to hear Charley Steiner and Rick Monday call the final half-inning on the radio.
It was, as evenings go around here, a pretty wonderful one. That might sound strange, and it might not, but how could I possibly complain? I got the housework done, I got to play with my girls, I got to cook for them, and my daughters, and my burger-averse wife, all three gave my sandwiches their highest rating. (Patty says it was better than an animalized Double-Double, but then she's married to me, so she'll say something like that occasionally-- I'm sure she means it, but still, I don't think In-N-Out has anything to worry about). Oh, and the Dodgers won, perhaps charting the beginning of an upswing out of their recent and inevitable slump following their very hot start to the season. One or two more like that this weekend and maybe I'll be spared another round of "What's up with those Dodgers?" questions at the office Monday morning. As for my buddy, I could ride him about the harsh treatment, and I could bring up that whole Opening Day thing again. But maybe I'll just let him bask in the glow of tonight's win, knowing that he didn't miss it, and that I did. He saw the grand slam, but I got thank-yous after dinner, hugs and kisses after the umpteenth reading of Goodnight, Moon, and an "I love you, Daddy" as I shut the door to Nonie's room that made my heart soar.
And he's giving me a ticket to Tuesday's game, so at least for now I gotta watch my step...
UPDATE 4/30/05 5:00 p.m.: The twisted, yet somehow lovable jackass responds.